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A gentleman’s guide to re-branding yourself

September 2, 2012
By KELLY VAN DE WALLE ( , Times-Republican

Frequent readers of this column are familiar with my disdain for clothing and fashion, not because I hate the industry, but because it looks unfairly so much better on everybody else. I just end up looking like an outdated, ill-fitting scarecrow.

Pants are the victims of drive-by stain attacks; shirts get torn and ripped as if I engage urban warfare on a daily basis but in reality am apparently an overaggressive shirt-remover. Apparently not everyone removes their shirt as if they were Hulk Hogan entering the ring? Where's the fun in that?

Apparently I'm the Oskar Shindler of clothing apparel. Half my drawers have false bottoms with clothes my wife thinks she's thrown away years ago (another advantage to having false bottom anything is that it makes you feel like a spy).

"Why do you still have this?" she'll ask of a shirt with what I call "accent holes" all over.

"Extra ventilation," I explain, reasonably.

"And these pants with the permanent chocolate and paint stains that I told you to get rid of last month?"

"Artistic expressionism. Stains are totally in now. If you followed the fashion world as much as I did you'd know these things."

In college I could generally walk into one of a number of stores and exit with something my roommates' girlfriend wouldn't let me wear because it looked weird or was the wrong color or gender. But the salespeople at least made me feel great about buying it.

At 31, I'm trapped in an abyss of uncertainty about my visual presentation. Do I call jeans "slacks" now? Is it time for suspenders? Or do I try and shoehorn myself into the younger demographic and shop at American Eagle, continuing to purchase shirts with annoyingly large patches adorned all over like I'm some kind of officer in the nation's secret underground bird army?

There are so many options when attempting to re-brand myself. After careful consideration the frontrunner might be a Victoria gentleman complete with wool houndstooth aristocrat vest, cotton cravat, brass-tipped walking stick in the shape of a bulldog and monocle (for the theatre, obviously). It amuses me imagining myself walking across the street and having a good chortle at some commoner's antic - flying a kite or extracting money from an ATM and the like. I'd probably need to get a horse, though. It can live in my garage. I'd name him Captain Picard or Sir Willingham Bilby Cumberbatch III.

As a result of sustaining a concussion I found myself at the mall in search of a new look, with mixed results.

Abercrombie & Fitch

I mistake myself into an Abercrombie & Fitch night club/apathy store. "Is this the store for me?" I wonder. I attempt to look into the lifeless eyes of the sad child behind the register and ask where the "hip lids" are (I think I heard that in a movie once and it means hats? I can't confirm this.).

"Whatever," he replied, vaguely pointing to everything.

Feeling this an inappropriate response, I poked him in the eyeball. I believe if, as a society, we poked more folks in the eyeballs when they're being apathetic they'd put more thought into things.

I dash off after being totally creeped out by the giant posters of half-naked people staring at me that are there, obviously, to help to sell clothes. I'm convinced they are as helpful as a football bat.

The Buckle

At the Buckle, you're likely to be word-assaulted and up-sold until you give an employee stalker ninja everything you have in your pockets. I've met gypsy pickpockets with greater tact and restraint for my wallet. The best way to escape the clutches of a Buckle employee is to throw a pocket full of coins into a jeans display and dash off while they fight each other to the death.


Hollister is the anti-Buckle. Old Western ghost towns have more life. They compensate for lack of employees with music, making it seem as though everyone in Hollister was suddenly raptured a minute before you arrived. It's so dark here I ended up having an aggressive 15-minute conversation with an employee that turned out to be a mannequin.

I finally gave up and wandered into a store that advertised personal shoppers. The lady that was assigned to me, Karley, was too tall to be a human female but very pleasantyou know, visually and such.

"So what are you looking for?" she asked, politely.

"I'm flattered, but I'm married," I reply, gently, breaking her heart.

"Um, OK?" she said, crushed. "What clothes are you looking for?"

"I'm not sure. I think a fedora? I need to exude a sense of adventure."

"Oh? Why? What do you do?"

"I'm a writer."

She gives me a queer look.

"No, but, like, an exciting one. I don't want to brag, but I know lots of words. Perfunctory, for example."

"Well, what else do you like?"

"Maybe some rugged, outdoorsy khakis? And maybe a leather jacket. Oh, and a satchel and whip or something?!"

"So you want a leather jacket, satchel, whip and fedora. You know, that sounds an awful lot like Indiana Jones."

"Yes! That!"

She just stared in complete awe that someone so uneducated in her area could be so talented.

"Isn't this the time where we have a fun montage of me trying on all sorts of wacky swag while you look on in dismay until the last one, which is super sexy?"

She sighed, obviously with longing.

This was going great. I don't know what I was worried about. I should've done this a long time ago!


Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at or via foxing atop Sir Willingham Bilby Cumberbatch III. Tally ho, old boy! Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny because that's what a gentleman would do.



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